Adventures in Pet Ownership

By Jackie Alessio

Anybody who owns a dog or a cat understands the special bond that forms between a pet and their person. Of course they also know that animals have a mind of their own. It is the rewarding and amusing nature of this kind of relationship that inspires Pets On Wheels of Connecticut volunteers to do what they do. We want others to share in the joy of pet ownership; the good, the great, and sometimes the ugly!

I experienced the more messy side of pet ownership to the fullest extent when my dog Guinness was a puppy. I had taken him with me to a party that was being held at the local fairgrounds. As soon as I let him off the leash to run around he stumbled with his big puppy paws over to the woods. I glanced away for what felt like just a moment, but when I looked back towards Guinness I saw him lumbering back towards me, proudly carrying something in his mouth. I ran towards him and quickly realized he had discovered a dirty diaper in the woods, and as he got closer, I was horrified to see and smell that he had rolled around on it before deciding to show it off. My friends thought it was hysterical, but Guinness didn’t think it was very funny when party time turned into bath time.

Sue Torres, a member of Pets On Wheels of Connecticut’s placement team, and her boyfriend, Matt also know what it’s like to have their dog keep them on their toes. Shortly after he was adopted from the Humane Society it became apparent that Cam, their Plott Hound from North Carolina, had some severe separation anxiety. He would find a way to break out of his crate as well as destroy woodwork, furniture, and even an air conditioner! Cam’s separation anxiety and instinctive desire to track any scent he picks up on has made him quite the escape artist. His impulsive behavior got him into some serious trouble one day while Matt was at work. Sue explains, “I received a call from Matt to get over to his house immediately. He lives on the second floor of a two family house. Apparently, Cam had unlocked a window, kicked out the screen and was hanging out the second story window barking. Cam has a very loud bark and could be heard all over the neighborhood. The Fire Department had been called to come with the ladder truck to get him back inside!”

Jennifer Holt, Pets on Wheels of Connecticut’s Director of Operations, is constantly amazed at her dog’s stealth in hiding people food. “Squib is like a ninja when I bring in groceries from the car. While I’m making several trips back and forth, she’ll steal food out of the bags I’ve already brought in. It’s not until hours or even days later that I’ll walk by her crate and discover an unopened box of mac n’ cheese or discover a loaf of bread stuffed between the couch cushions. But if I give her a rawhide bone, she’ll try digging a hole in the blankets on the bed and bury it beneath me! Then she’ll look at me like, You saw nothing.” Nowadays, Squib faces a new challenge: to keep her treats and toys away from Jennifer’s new kitten, Pow, who knows no fear!

Whether they’re making a mess or playing the role of damsel in distress, pets make for moments that are anything but dull. But they also make life better with their constant companionship and loyalty.

If you or someone you know is ready to adopt but could use some help, you can apply online right now. If you’d like to make a contribution to help even more people in need, please donate today.

The Power of Pets

by Christine Spidell

When a person adopts a shelter dog or cat, it is often referred to as rescuing the animal.  But many pet owners believe that their pets have actually rescued them.  Pets have an amazing power of healing and comfort, and are able to provide their owners with a unique form of encouragement and support.

Dr. Edward Creagan, a Medical Oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, has experienced this firsthand.  In a speech titled The Health Benefits of Pets, Dr. Creagan shares the story of a cancer patient who was determined to get well in order to get home to his dog.  Rather than a family member or close friend, it was thoughts of his dog, Max, that created an extra form of motivation for him to keep pushing and get well.

“We can no longer ignore the medical significance of the bond people have with their pets,” says Dr. Creagan.  He now writes down the names of all of his cancer patients’ pets and talks to them about their pets regularly.  He sees an immediate change in attitude when the patients begin sharing stories about their pets.  He says the atmosphere becomes one of “healing, peace, serenity.”[1]

A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that when a human, regardless of age or gender, strokes a dog, there are profound psychological changes that act to reduce stress.  The blood pressure and heart rate of the human reduce, and there is an overall sense of well-being.

For pet owners with social or emotional disorders such as anxiety or depression, having a pet can provide a special way of coping, and a sense of being needed.  Pets can enhance their will to live, and give them an extra purpose and responsibility.  They have a reason to get up each day, and develop a daily routine with their pet.

JoAnn Turnbull from the Delta Society has seen these positive effects on patients firsthand.  “Within five or ten minutes, we can see patients get healthier just from having contact with a therapy animal,” says Turnbull.  “People with chronic illnesses or who suffer from depression become engaged when they visit with a dog or cat, and they’ll engage with other people through the animal.  The animals are the bridge to communication.”[2] The Delta Society, also referred to as Pet Partners, is a nationwide non-profit organization specializing in Animal-Assisted Interactions.[3]

Whether the owner has a special circumstance, or just enjoys the company of a furry companion, the benefits of owning a pet are significant and special.  If you or someone you know is ready to adopt but could use some help, you can apply online right now.  If you’d like to make a contribution to help even more people in need, please donate today.